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Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail - an everlasting miracle

The Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail is seen as a highlight in the Vietnamese nation’s course of history, a crystallisation of the national great unity block, a shining symbol of revolutionary heroism, and an eloquent testimony to the sound, creative leadership of the Party, particularly the Central Military Commission, and the Ministry of National Defence, providing us with a lot of valuable lessons for the Homeland protection.

After the Geneva Accords had been signed (July 21st, 1954), our country was temporarily divided into two regions, namely the South and the North. While the North was liberated and gradually experienced a transitional period towards socialism, our people in the South had to carry on a resistance war against the U.S., for national salvation. The U.S. and its lackeys adopted new-style colonialism in the South; they herded the rural population into hamlets and slaughtered our patriots in order to strangle the patriotic movement of our Southern Military and people, negate the Geneva Accords, and dismember our country.

Against that backdrop, our Southern people rose up as one to fight for civil rights and democracy. Our armed units devoted effort to destroying the wicked and the evil and re-seize power. At the high peak of our revolution, the issuance of the Resolution of the 2nd Party Central Committee’s 15th Plenum acted as a new incentive to the Southern Military and people’s armed struggle. To make preparations for the South’s resistance war, the Party Central Committee (PCC) directed the establishment of a strategic transport line at sea along with the Truong Son Trail to opportunely provide weapons, equipment, ammunition, medicine, personnel, and means of war. That is a strategic, creative decision of the PCC, the General Military Commission (GMC), and the General Command, expressing the entire Party, Military, and people’s aspirations for national independence, freedom, and unification. 6 decades have elapsed, but the miracle of Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail is still highlighted in our country’s history.

1. Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail - strategic vision of the PCC and the GMC

When our Southern people’s resistance war against the U.S., for national salvation was in the fierce phase together with the rapid development of our armed forces, the issue on supplying weapons and equipment for the main force and the guerrilla force became more urgent. In spite of the PCC’s close direction, the land transport line, aka the Truong Son Trail, was limited and unable to reach battlefields in the country’s southernmost region. Therefore, under the PCC’s direction, on October 23rd, 1961, the General Command decided to establish the Sea Transport Group 759 - the forerunner of the present-day Naval Brigade 125 to opportunely provide personnel and means of war for the South. That decision proved the strategic vision of the PCC and the GMC as it immediately met the contextual developments. Right after its foundation, under the close leadership and direction of the PCC and the GMC, cadres and soldiers of the Sea Transport Group 759 proactively overcame difficulties, step by step built manpower, prepared vessels, established command systems, and made other preparations for opening the sea transport line - the North-South strategic military transport line.

    Participants in a scientific conference on the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail         (photo: qdnd.vn)

After carefully studying, analysing, and evaluating cruises of exploration between the South and the North as well as closely directing the development of vessels and projects, the Central Military Commission (CMC)1, particularly the then First Secretary of the PCC Le Duan assigned comrade Bong Van Dia to be in charge of the first ship transporting weapons to the South. That has proved the PCC’s determination to open the sea transport line as comrade Bong Van Dia, who had directly carried out surveys of coastal areas and islands of Bac Lieu province, was experienced in travelling on the sea and dealing with the enemy during his cruises to transport weapons and convey the PCC’s instructions from the North to the South. On the evening of October 12th, 1962, the “Phuong Dong 1” Ship with 10 crew members, commanded by Captain Le Van Mot and Commissar Bong Van Dia, carrying more than 30 tons of weapons left Do Son harbour (Hai Phong city) for the South. On the morning of October 19th, 1962, the Ship arrived at Chum Gong (Vam Lung, Tan An) safely. That Ship became a “legend” as it was the first to exploit the sea transport line - the strategic military transport line - the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail. After the success of the cruise by the “Phuong Dong 1” Ship, three other vessels docked at Ca Mau harbour safely together with the harbours of Tra Vinh, Ben Tre, and Ba Ria. Highly appreciating that feat of arms, in his telegram, President Ho Chi Minh opportunely encouraged cadres and soldiers of the Sea Transport Group 759 to quickly draw lessons and keep transporting more weapons for the Southern people to defeat the enemy, for North-South reunification. The success and safety of the first vessels transporting weapons and equipment from the North to the South proved the sound, creative decision of the PCC and the CMC as well as their strategic vision and determination to completely liberate the South and reunify the country.

2. Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail - an everlasting miracle

From the first cruise by the “Phuong Dong 1” Ship to February 1965, we transported thousands of tons of weapons and equipment alongside hundreds of senior cadres of the Party, the State, and the Military for the South revolution safely, thus fulfilling the expectations of the Southern Military and people. Although the enemy employed all cunning artifices and state-of-the-art weapons and military equipment for reconnaissance and patrols, they were unable to detect anything abnormal at sea; therefore, we kept secrecy about the strategic sea transport line. That was really a miracle and of utmost significance to our country’s resistance war, for national salvation. And that miracle took the enemy surprise as they said that “Viet Cong’s transport of weapons to the South by sea was far too risky and unbelievable.” Nevertheless, the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail was also confronted with numerous difficulties, hardships, and dangers; especially after the event at Vung Ro (February 1965), we could not maintain secrecy about our sea transport line. After finding out our sea transport line, the enemy carried out a series of plans against the North and employed a large number of aircraft and patrol ships to control every square kilometre of rivers, seas, and islands with a view to preventing and cutting off our strategic supply line. Against the enemy’s mopping-up operations, we secretly changed the transport method and travelled through other adjacent countries’ seas with a longer route and a larger quantity of petroleum, drinking water, and food, thereby facing more difficulties in loading and hiding supplies, the limited effectiveness of transport, and even more sacrifices and losses.      

However, under the spirit of sacrificing for the frontline and the South, the CMC and the Ministry of National Defence, particularly the Naval Party Committee and Command directed cadres and soldiers of the “No Number Naval Ships” to opportunely draw lessons after each cruise and determinedly overcome all difficulties and hardships to sufficiently provide human and material resources for the Southern battlefield. Flexibly and creatively applying the Vietnamese military art, cadres and soldiers of the Group 759 both secretly and publicly organised cruises, departed from many different harbours (even in other countries), landed in a large number of places, and travelled many sea lanes (on the high seas and in the international waters); when being detected, approached, attacked, or hijacked by the enemy, we fought back fiercely, even made sacrifice and destroyed our vessels to maintain the secrecy of our transport line.

Between 1961 and 1975, the “No Number Naval Ships” transported hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition as well as tens of thousands of cadres to the Southern battlefield. It should be noted that the “No Number Naval Ships” transported 8,741 tons of weapons and 18,741 cadres and soldiers for the 1975 Spring General Offensive and Uprising in the South at lightning speed, making a significant contribution to the liberation of the South and the reunification of the country.

According to late General Vo Nguyen Giap, the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail is a symbol of determination to fight and defeat the U.S., expressing the iron will and knowledge of the Vietnamese people against the U.S. imperialists’ modern technology and their power of wealth. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet said that “the heroic exploits and great sacrifices of the strategic transport force named after our beloved Uncle Ho in the East Sea, the No Number Naval Ships, and people and troops at wharves tasked with providing human and material resources for the South revolution in the resistance war against the U.S., for national salvation will be forever in our country’s glorious history.”

The Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail and the Truong Son Trail constituted the two strategic military transport lines, opportunely meeting the needs of the Southwestern and Southeastern battlefields, effectively supplying human and material resources for the South’s people and Military, demonstrating the entire Party, Military, and people’s determination to defeat the U.S. invasion for national independence and freedom. 60 years have elapsed, but the leadership and direction over the establishment of the Ho Chi Minh Sea Trail by the PCC, particularly the CMC and the Ministry of National Defence remain valuable and should continue to be studied and applied to the Homeland protection.

Sr. Col., Associate Prof. NGUYEN VAN SAU, PhD

Deputy Head of the Military History Institute of Vietnam

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1. In 1961, the GMC was renamed CMC

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